Australia: Biocontrol of weeds

8 November 2023

Renewed focus on weed biocontrol through a collaborative initiative is set to deliver benefits to land managers and the environment in the fight against weeds.

The initial phase of implementing the National Weed Biocontrol Pipeline Strategy includes the drafting of a national priority list of candidate weeds for biological control.

Biological control, or biocontrol, is the practice of managing pests or weeds by introducing its ‘natural enemies’, such as insects and pathogens (known as biocontrol agents).

Australian Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer, Dr Bertie Hennecke, said the development of biocontrol capability is a complex process.

“Research into biocontrol can take years to complete, but by establishing a national priority list we can best direct investment to get the ball rolling,” Dr Hennecke said.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), partnering with Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, Biosecurity Queensland – Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Agriculture Victoria, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and Wild Matters will collectively lead the project.

The strategy (prepared by CSIRO and CISS) has been approved by the Environment and Invasives Committee, a subcommittee of the National Biosecurity Committee, and the initial phase of work is funded by the Australian Government with in-kind support from the states and territories, and research institutions.

​CISS CEO Andreas Glanznig said that weed biocontrol is a great investment in Australia’s landscapes, biodiversity, and agriculture.

“Previous research has shown that from an average annual investment of $4.3 million, Australia reaps annual benefits of $95.3 million,” Mr Glanznig said.

Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO Dr Michelle Rafter said biocontrol is an effective way to control weeds across the landscape.

“Modern science-based biocontrol is a sustainable, safe and cost-effective way to help control weeds at a landscape scale,” Dr Rafter said.

Weeds have a negative impact on Australia’s environment, livelihood, and agricultural productivity, with an overall average cost of nearly $5 billion across Australia each year. Biocontrol offers a way forward to potentially claw back some of this huge cost to Australia.

For more information, visit Weeds Australia.